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MoCo makes bid for Amazon Featured

Amazon.com logo1Just two weeks since Amazon asked states and counties to bid for its second headquarters—a project that could mean 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment to the winning locality—Montgomery County and competitors all around the country were busy putting their proposals together.

Seattle-based Amazon asked for bids on Sept. 7, and gave just six weeks for initial proposals due Oct. 19. From those, Amazon will select finalists to compete for the prize with fully-specified bids.

According to the Seattle Times, more than 100 cities/counties and states/provinces in the U.S. and Canada are putting together proposals. Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdener said at this early stage in the process, “Every city is on an equal playing field.” He indicated the company will choose finalists from the initial applicants, and will select a winner next year.

Even within the state of Maryland and the D.C. area, Montgomery County faces substantial competition. On Sept. 13, Gov. Larry Hogan threw his support to a bid to bring the Amazon project to Port Covington in Baltimore, a site owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and investment firm Goldman Sachs. Hogan said he would personally lobby Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on behalf of the Baltimore bid.

Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said “he would welcome Amazon to any location within Maryland, and the state will assist any city [or county] submitting a proposal.” County Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), chair of the Council’s economic development committee, agreed, telling the Sentinel, “I am sure the Governor will be a team player.”

Within the D.C. area, there likely will be multiple bids from D.C., Prince George’s County, and several Northern Virginia jurisdictions. On Sept. 13, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments board of directors voted unanimously to have COG develop regional background data that could be used in every metro area proposal. Montgomery County Council president Roger Berliner (D-1) claimed in a letter from his County executive campaign that he initiated the effort, and added that if any metro area locality wins the headquarters, it would be a boon for employment throughout the region.

Amazon already has a substantial footprint in Maryland and the D.C. area. According to data Hogan released when he endorsed the Baltimore bid, the company already has about 3,500 employees in Maryland, primarily at a Southeast Baltimore distribution center. In D.C., Bezos owns the Washington Post and recently bought a large home in the Kalorama neighborhood. The company’s “cloud” services, with by far the largest market share of any firm in the cloud business, is managed in part from several buildings in Northern Virginia.

David Petr, CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, is leading the County’s effort to compile its initial proposal in the four weeks left before the Oct. 19 deadline.

Petr, citing competitive reasons, declined to be specific about the work or the sites the County will propose. “The Amazon proposal is receiving our significant attention,” he said, and “we have identified partners” such as owners of potential sites for the headquarters, and government leaders. Noting potential local cooperation, he added, “Montgomery County and the region have an incredible value proposition to offer Amazon.”

Floreen noted the top-line attractions the County offers: an excellent, educated workforce; three area airports and strong public transportation; and good schools, universities and quality of life. All these are cited as criteria in Amazon’s Request for Proposals for the second headquarters, often referred to as Amazon HQ2.

Floreen also listed some sites in the County that have figured in early discussions of possible HQ2 locations: the former White Flint shopping mall in North Bethesda; the Comsat site in Clarksburg; the Public Service Training Academy near the Shady Grove Metro station in Gaithersburg; and the Food and Drug Administration site on New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring. She noted that the Comsat and FDA sites lack nearby Metrorail access. She said other sites are probably also in the mix.

The White Flint site is ready to develop, with the exception of the Lord & Taylor’s store still open there. A smaller nearby shopping center on Nicholson Lane is also under the same owner, Lerner Enterprises. Several parcels close to the corner of Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane are owned by Metro. This site is near not only the White Flint Metro station, but within a mile and a quarter of the Twinbrook and Grosvenor stations.

The County’s initial proposal may list several possible sites, and compare each with the criteria in Amazon’s RFP.

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